Waste management in Ghana is in a perilous state. It had been so for years. All regimes the past decade and over, could be identified with a programme, two or more, to stem the tide, but to no avail.
There were the sanitation-agog monthly regional tours, so much hyped by the media, but so much, without impact; indeed, only fleeting tales now.
Truly, it should not be strange, if the nation got up one morning, to hear the news of a group of street marchers, demanding the right to drop garbage anywhere, because, it is the in-thing.
Presently, one who would not drop garbage messily is rather the odd one. In many communities, that person is looked at as a strange object dropped from the moon. So it is safe to opine that sanitation in Ghana, is a debacle
UNICEF in 2015 said “the water and sanitation programme of the World Bank estimated that Ghana loses USD290 million annually-at the current rate of USD 1 to GHC 3, which amounts to about GHC 879 million- because of the country’s inability to make improved sanitation and hygiene services available to the population,” that according to Benjamin Arthur, Executive Director of CONIWAS, an abbreviation for Coalition of NGOs in water and sanitation.
Mr Arthur said “approximately 19,000 people including 5,100 children under the age of five, die each year of diarrhoea, nearly 90 percent of, which is directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.That was nearly three years ago. Definitely the situation has not changed
This piece zeros on attitudes to trash, a horrendous Ghanaian failure, typified by the debacle in Accra and Kumasi, because somehow, it is the situation in the two cities that get the headlines.
The focus of this article is on Ho, Volta Regional capital, normally exemplified as neat, but indeed, speedily chasing after slummy Accra.
A few years ago, a Reporter, working for the Ghana News Agency (GNA), covered a workshop on forestry- woodlot development in Ho. And as part of the workshop, participants were taken on a trip to Xevi, off the Ho-Aflao trunk road.There in the community, were fields of early maturing trees, cultivated as fuel wood.
Tutorials were over and participants were given packages of snacks. Jaws went busy munching and then, one after the other, the bare parcels hit the ground, right there in the cottage.
A German lady, working for the German sponsors, aged about 60, walked to her vehicle, opened the booth, brought out a sack and picked the litters into it, back into the booth.
In a related issue, a teacher spotted a pupil dropping garbage on the ground on campus and asked him to pick it. He, the pupil, did just that, but as the teacher looked the other way, he (pupil) flung same garbage on to the ground, defiance.
A twelve-month observation suggests being messy is now a culture or perhaps rooting.Area covered by the surveillance is Ho-Anagokordzi, one of the densely populated communities in Ho. The specific spot is the space at the other side of Foresight Medical Centre, a moderately expansive backyard of a house near a Pentecost Church of Ghana.
That space, with a mango tree at the fringe, is normally used as an expedient de-facto vehicle packing lot by clients and visitors to the Hospital and homes around.
The place is also convenient for various uses by that Pentecost Church of Ghana, hazardously tucked in the belly of homes, across a disused street.
Running beside the house is a watercourse, sliding down from the Galenkui Hills, which carries rainfall overflow, splashing through the largely no drain area, which probably was once the route of a rivulet.
It is through the lenses of this post that the article mirrors the waste management situation in Ho
All social groupings drop garbage anywhere, both sexes drop junk harp hardly, all age groups, young and old, throw rubbish everywhere, some churches do not have waste management plans, many homes also do not input trash handling in their schedules, waterways are trash ways among others.
Imagine a young man donning a neat T-shirt, with the inscription of a Ghanaian public university, in some academic discussion with a friend, dropping corn cobs right under the mango tree and leaving.
A woman, fashionably dressed, looking noble, well-manicured, dropped sachet water casings there, without batting the eyelid.
Here comes another young man. He looked decent, came out from a nice four-wheel-drive pickup, and was joined by another. They tore up casing of a Chinese keep-fit gadget, dropped the carton right there on the ground and drove off.
Kofi (not his real name) is a frequent visitor to the area with a taxi that had a “for sale” tag on it. He probably wanted a more legible tag and so tore the old one off the windscreen, dropped it there without qualm. The paper, which had his telephone number on it, floated around in a kind of a free range advertising.
During the 2017 Christmas holidays, a showy team in three cars, with non-regular registration numbers, drove into the space, playing music noisily and as they left, threw out a mineral water bottle. All about the team reflected a slum upbringing. They probably wanted onlookers to know they had been drinking bottled mineral water.
Refreshment activity one Sunday to climax a mass wedding by the Pentecost Church on Saturday attracted a host of celebrants. There were lots of pastries and sweet drinks judging from the awful volume of garbage left around.
The Church Management Committee, which stayed around after the end of the Church Service hopped-stepped-jumped over the mess, into their vehicles, and away, they went.
When it rains, the garbage flowing down, obviously dumped in or around the drain at its different courses include, diapers, used sanitary pads, rags, packaged domestic waste, disused cookware and old vehicle tyres, empty canned foods and drinks among others.
The interplay of rubbers of different colours and sizes, including water sachet cases, rubbers used in packaging porridge, other foods and items, phone credit cards, used iced cream jackets, in acrobatic aerial displays in the gusts before the rains is awful.
This situation, I guess replicates in other parts of the Ho Municipality. There are signs almost everywhere, markets, public transport terminals, and vicinity of offices, alleys, along the sides of streets and in the drains.
The garbage situation, most times, at the back of the Judicial Service Block in Ho, running eastwards towards the offices of the Volta Regional Coordinating Council probably and many other prime areas portends a ‘garbage hemorrhage’ in the otherwise scenic regional capital.
Empirical evidence gathered from talking to people on the streets is that, officials are simply overwhelmed by the situation or under-estimate its seriousness.
A disincentive to garbage management in the municipality is also the cost of lifting garbage by the sanitation companies, which is around GHC25.
The suspicion among tenants in compound houses, which results in quarrels over electricity purchases, is spilling over to tenants sharing garbage bins.
Another drawback could be the irregular lifting of garbage by the companies, exemplified by the situation at the SSNIT Flats, a middle class community, fast deteriorating, characterized by garbage bin spillages.
An interviewee said the practice of throwing garbage chaotically is so widespread that there could be ironies of members of sanitation by-laws enforcement teams being themselves culpable.
Fact is the battle against bad refuse management is huge because the bad practices are ingrained, like a tick burrowing into the skin.
But there is hope, as demonstrated by a young lady who bought sachet water at the Progressive Transport Owners Association (PROTOA), saloon cars station at the Ho Public Transport Terminus.
She drank some of it, emptied the rest in a drain around and then tucked the empty sachet into her bag.
Feature by A.B. Kafui Kanyi/ Sepenyo Dzokoto